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Maps

Northmavine, Shetland, in Early Maps

(Please click on thumbnail maps to see larger versions. Please note that the larger versions are quite large to show the detail and may take time to appear if you are using a slow internet connection.)

Northmavine has featured on maps of Shetland for hundreds of years although no large scale printed maps were produced of this part of Shetland before the Ordnance Survey arrived in the 1870s. Early Shetland maps however do demonstrate how knowledge of the islands' geography evolved and how cartographic presentation changed over a period of some 250 years.

Some of the earliest maps of Shetland were marine charts and were published by the Dutch. Probably best known of these was Waghenaer whose anglicised name ("waggoner") was used as a general name for sea charts at that time and whose chart of Shetland was first published in 1592 . Original copies of this are now rare but the Shetland Museum holds a copy. This chart shows how different a view was held at that time of Shetland's geography and without the names one would have difficulty recognising it as Shetland.

Van Keulen, 1682

Van Keulen, 1682

Note that north is at the bottom of the chart & that it was believed that the north mainland was a separate island!

Another Dutchman, Van Keulen, published a chart in 1682 which was clearly taken from Waghenaer's and shows a view of Shetland's geography which had changed little in the preceding 90 years. The first charts based on British surveys were published in 1693 as part of a belated attempt by the British to be more independendent of foreign cartographers when sailing in British coastal waters. This provided a huge advance in accuracy but the work of the Royal Hydrographer, Greenvile Collins, was curtailed in Shetland by the approach of winter and detailed charts were only produced of the south Mainland and the Lerwick/Bressay area.

At the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th Timothy Pont, the son of an eminent Scottish clergyman and a minister himself, travelled throughout Scotland surveying the countryside. Many of his hand-drawn annotated maps survive today but sadly not one of Shetland. However there is little doubt that he came to Shetland although conclusive proof is still lacking.

 

 

 

 

Blaeu, 1654
Blaeu, 1654

 

Northmavine, detail from Blaeu, 1654

His work was published in the maps of Blaeu and Hondius published between 1636 and 1654 which provided far more detail and accuracy (although Van Keulen seemed unaware of this when he published his chart some years later).

Moll, 1725
Moll, 1725

In 1725 Herman Moll produced a small attractive map of Shetland with interesting and informative annotations (although none refers to Northmavine).

 

Bellin, 1764
Bellin, 1764

 

 

By the 18th century French hydrographers were becoming better established and in 1764 Bellin who worked for the French Marine Office produced a small map of Shetland.

Kitchin & Barber, 1778
Kitchin & Barber, 1778

 

 

 

Shortly afterwards Kitchin and Barber's map of Shetland was published in London.

Shetland also produced its own mapmakers although its only professional cartographer, James Robertson of Gossabrough, seemed never to have mapped Shetland. John Bruce of Symbister though produced a map which was published in Amsterdam by R & J Ottens in 1745 but despite his local knowledge the geography of Shetland which it depicted was still very different from Shetland as we know it to be today. But it was probably one of the earliest maps to name Northmavine describing it as "Nord Maving". An original copy of this map is held by the Shetland Museum.

Cary's Isles of Zetland, 1789
Cary's Isles of Zetland, 1789

Thomas Gifford of Busta also published a map in his 1786 book entitled An Historical Description of the Zetland Islands and this map, which names all the parishes, was subsequently used for some years in Camden's Britannia. On this map Northmavine is shown as "North Haven" – presumably an error by the engraver who it is believed could have been John Cary who went on to become a well-known map publisher.

Thomson, 1827
Thomson, 1827

With the arrival of the 19th century, cartographic surveying and presentation changed markedly and the more scientific approach provided a much more accurate representation of the Islands. The form of engraving changed too losing much of its earlier artistic style and it was replaced by very fine and precise engraving techniques which are demonstrated well in Thomson's map published in 1827.

 

SDUK, 1870
SDUK, 1870

 

During the reign of Victoria several cartographers produced maps of Shetland to meet a growing demand for the information which they contained. Amongst these were Edward Weller and also the curiously named Society for the Dissemination of Useful Knowledge (SDUK). The Ordnance Survey first surveyed North Mavine in 1878 and when the ensuing map was published it took the presentation and accuracy of maps of this part of Shetland to a new level. This of course was the forerunner of the highly accurate and very readable maps upon which we directly or indirectly rely so much today.

Weller, 1884
Weller, 1884


Robert Price, May 2006

 

We are very grateful to Robert Price, Cambridge, for providing us with images of the maps mentioned above and for writing the accompanying text. He has scanned the images from original maps which he owns. In the antique map world an 'original' is a print made directly from the engraved plate at the time of original publication.
Thanks to Charlotte Stevens for the contact!